I like using applications that end up quickening my workflows and make it more efficient. That is one of the main reasons why I am part of at least 15 iOS and 5 macOS apps’ beta testers’ list. Also, being a Product Manager myself, I like reaching out to developers with my feedback and get an amazing rush when they decided to implement the suggested changes. This has led me to build great connections with many developers and also test out many apps before shortlisting the ones I actually end up using in my daily life.
I have a few criteria when it comes to choosing an application/service.
- Cross-platform (at least within the Apple ecosystem): I have 3 main devices — MacBook, iPad, and iPhone. For any application I might choose, they must be present on each of those ecosystems. I follow this rule for 99% of the time unless there’s an app that’s extraordinarily good in a subset of those platforms.
- Design: A very important reason why I might consider an application is its overall design aesthetics. I strongly feel that if the design of an app, on its own, doesn’t make me want to use an app, I’ll often end up not using it at all. I’ll actually end up spending more time looking for its alternatives instead.
- Speed of adoption of new features: I’d consider myself an early adopter when it comes to technology. Consequently, I find myself losing patience with apps that do not update themselves with new technologies quickly enough. For example, since I use Siri Shortcuts quite extensively on my iOS devices, I stay away from apps that don’t have extensive support for Shortcuts.
- Payment structure: It is unfortunate that most good quality applications have switched over to the subscription model these days. Nevertheless, if I manage to find an alternative that supports one-time payments, I’d definitely gravitate towards that. There are quite a few applications that have lifetime plans, and I end up buying those ones often if I am sold of the applications’ usefulness and have faith in the developer.
Speaking of how I choose my applications, here’s a rundown of 10 top apps that you’d always find installed on my devices.
I can not talk about productivity apps and not mention Alfred. Frankly, I find myself absolutely paralyzed every time I switch to a new Mac and I don’t have it installed on it. This one app itself supercharges my workflows by 3-4 times. To get an idea of ways how I use Alfred, check out these workflows I had published on my blog. If you’re interested don’t forget to visit their forum or this nifty list of workflows published by the app developers themselves.
Before I switched over to Things, I was a subscriber of Todoist for over 2 years, and it had served me well. There were 3 major reasons that made me switch over to Things:
- Todoist had a habit of shaming the user for missing tasks on time by marking it in red. It’d irk me so much that there times when I’d actually get panic attacks looking at those tasks, just because I hadn’t finished them yet. As I had mentioned earlier, design is key.
- Todoist isn’t exactly a native app. It’s mostly a web app in a wrapper. Don’t get me wrong, the apps work great. I am just not a fan of web apps at all.
- Overall design of Things is extremely beautiful. I had just fallen in love with it on first sight.
Maybe someday I’ll write a detailed review of the app. Until then, I’d highly recommend this review from The Sweet Setup.
I have been an Evernote subscriber for over 5 years. My style of using Evernote was as a capture tool for everything in my life. That repository was fuelled by IFTTT recipes and automated email triggers. By the time I decided to jump ship, I had over 15,000 notes in Evernote. Ended up switching, because I was tired of the lack of development pace with the team.
This one is a bit of a luxury, I’ll admit. Truthfully, what draws me to the application is its UX and the fact that the Flexibits team is super quick in supporting new features that get launched by Apple. Fantastical has been my go-to calendar app for the past 3 years or so. One feature I’d really love them to implement is to take group polls for events, something I use Woven for.
Platform: macOS, iPhone, iPad, Watch
Payment Structure: Free, $1.99 per month, $19.99 per year
Alternatives: There is no true alternative of Drafts when it comes to its automation features.
Drafts is my inbox for everything. Any set of data I might want to quickly capture, I do that in Drafts. A game changer for me has the Drafts app/complication for Watch where I can quickly capture notes using dictation. I’d highly recommend anyone who might be interested to check out this video by Christopher Lawley.
BetterTouchTool is my second best companion for automation on macOS, after Alfred. It is a venerable app that has always brought countless tools to any Mac with a trackpad. Add it to a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, though, and you could become a fan of that little OLED strip.
As good and useful as that trackpad on your Mac is, it’s idle most of the time. BetterTouchTool turns it into hard-working assistant that with a tap or a gesture you can have launch apps, change brightness, swap Spaces and make windows snap to the sides of your screen. This utility has been providing all of this to Mac users for years but now it works with Apple’s Touch Bar — and it makes that underused technology shine.
Platform: macOS, iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows
Payment Structure: $49.99 per year, available with SetApp subscription (Teams plan only)
Alternatives: Microsoft Outlook, Spark, Airmail, Canary & Edison
What draws me to this application is its simplicity and clean lines. The interface looks beautiful, especially the Compose window. Additionally, one of the other features that I’m a big fan of is Read Receipts. Being a freelancer, the ability to know when an email of mine was opened by the client is quite useful.
MindNode is a mind mapping app that makes brainstorming a pleasurable experience. The app helps visualize my thoughts into beautifully structured diagrams that are easy to read and comprehend.
I can easily organize and customize their ideas by using texts as well as images. The visuals are neat and clear. The relationships between ideas can be clearly defined as well as modified according to the user’s needs.
Even though I’ve mention 5 alternatives for CleanShot X, none of them match this app feature by feature. Some of the features that I use extensively are:
- Traditional screenshots
- Scrolling screenshots on any app
- Record screen as both a video and a GIF
- Even record voice notes while recording the screen, a la Loom
Platform: macOS, iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows
Payment Structure: $9.99 per month per Mac, $108 per year per Mac, $2.49 per month per iOS device
Alternatives: None, whatsoever.
SetApp is a service that offers a bundle of macOS and iOS applications at a fixed subscription. They currently have 200+ apps in their bundle. Of course, no one would use each and every app listed on their ecosystem, but I’ve realised that I’d have paid about $500+ a year to use the apps that I currently use through SetApp and pay just $110 instead.
Some of my favourite apps from their bundle are:
- iStat Menus
- CleanShot X